A group of 4 ex-Genentech staffers led by a longtime principal scientist at the big biotech was hauled in front of a federal judge in San Francisco earlier this week and charged with multiple counts of stealing trade secrets for the benefit of a Taiwanese biotech company.
According to the US attorney’s office, Xanthe Lam — a senior scientist at Genentech from 1986 to last year — “downloaded, collected and transferred” trade secrets on drugs and the management of raw materials related to Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin to Allen Lam, her husband and another ex-Genentecher.
The conspiracy also allegedly included John Chan and James Quach, who was allowed to use her computer credentials in the scheme, opening the door to his theft of manufacturing protocols. Allen Lam, Chan and Quach had all enlisted as consultants for Taiwan-based JHL Biotech, which Bloomberg reported is in the hunt for an IPO with a valuation of $750 million.
JHL’s pipeline includes biosimilars of Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin, the big three at Roche which have lost patent protection.
Xanthe Lam faces the largest list of charges, facing up to 30 years in prison.
Bloomberg, which was the first to report the charges, tracked down attorneys for Xanthe Lam and Chan, who flatly denied their guilt.
“We don’t think the government will be able to sustain the charges” against Xanthe Lam, her lawyer William Osterhoudt told the news service. “She is a brilliant scientist and has patents in her own name. She has been working hard to develop medicines to help people. We think this is not a good case.”
The indictments follow back-to-back guilty pleas by GSK staffers accused of stealing trade secrets from the UK pharma giant in order to sell the information at a company they had set up in Nanjing.
Biopharma has seen explosive growth in China — as well as Taiwan — as the country races to approve a full portfolio of drugs and copycats to serve the country’s 1.3 billion people.
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